Chapter Twenty Two

Marty barked excitedly running scattering the chickens in their pen around the barn out to the driveway looking down the road. Sam stepped out of the barn just as Erica’s silver Honda turned the corner from the county road a quarter mile away. Marty barked, running in circles looking at the car and then back at Sam. Marty knew the sound of everyone’s rig and he was the official welcoming committee. He was not allowed to run out and greet anyone down the lane as they drove up and had been taught to wait until they got out of the rig before he approached the car. So he sat on his wiggling butt in great anticipation. When she opened the door he met her with a surge of dog love. “Hi Marty! I missed you too!” Erica said as she wrapped her arms around him.

“Hi honey, you’re home a day early?” Sam asked.

“Oh, I talked to my professors to see if I could skip tomorrow so I could go to the women’s conference at church with Mom and Linda. Mom bought me a ticket just in case I could get off. I sure don’t want to waste her money! Meadow Song is going to be playing there!” She said with excitement. “Can you believe it? Mom was saying that there has been such a surge in ticket sales to attend this surprise concert Pastor Mike moved the conference to the church’s auditorium.”

“Hmmm… really?” Sam thought back to his last conversation with Pastor Mike and getting enough funding for the parking lot and expansion project. I see what he is up to! He thought to himself. Robin had mentioned the upcoming women’s conference and he had made tentative plans with Corey to take a small excavator and Bobcat out to the property to work for the entire weekend provided the deal closed by Friday. It was conditional though. Robin told Sam that sometime over the weekend he needed to talk to Corey about Monica about their living accommodations. Sam reluctantly agreed. He felt that it really wasn’t his business to tell Corey how to live his life. Robin had argued that it was biblical, that an elder should go talk to Corey, and Monica should not be in a leadership position and living like this. If Corey didn’t adhere to the warning then a group of men from the church needed to talk to him, and if Cory still didn’t take action, then he would not be allowed back in the church. Robin had brought up the fact that Cory and Monica’s actions had even justified Ben’s recent change in direction and ultimately his walk with the Lord. Ben was a sensitive subject and the conversation petered out at the mention of his name. Ben’s disrespect towards his family still disturbed Sam. “I need to go check on the cows and calves”, which usually meant that he needed to go out to the barn and process everything. Sam had just walked into the barn when Marty’ announced Erica’s arrival.

After giving his daughter a hug and a kiss on the forehead, Erica popped open the trunk. Sam grabbed Erica’s suitcase out of the trunk and was following her into the house when his phone buzzed in his back pocket. Setting her suitcase down, he answered, “Hello?”

“Hey Sam, this Sheila at Valley Title Company. We have received notice that the owners in China have signed paperwork for the Jaykee Creek property. It looks like I will have everything ready by the end of the day today and you and your wife can sign the paperwork first thing tomorrow. There isn’t any reason why it can’t be recorded by noon”.

“Wow! You do very good work! I was skeptical whether you would be able to pull this off!”

“Yes, this isn’t normal but we do a lot of work with your lawyer and he is very good. I also wanted to tell you that everyone here at the office was very impressed with you and your wife and your offer to that missionary family. That was another reason why we were able to get this done so quickly. When we heard about your kindness and hearing of that little girl needed the money to get treatment, we all wanted to contribute something too, so we worked late last night to get this done for them”.

“Well thank you!” Sam replied.

“In fact,” she continued, “when your lawyer mentioned that you were also wiring an additional twenty five hundred dollars to help them, one of our girls here at the office approached the corporate office to see if they would match your generosity”.

“Oh wow! That was nice of her!”

“Yes,” she continued. “This is so crazy! The secretary she spoke with at the corporate office in New York happens to be a relation to the cousin of one of the missionaries. Their family has not been able to touch base with them because of the lack of internet access and phone service where they live is so unreliable.”

“Yes, we have had that problem communicating with them too.” Sam said. “It truly is a miracle that we were able to get this contract signed.”

Sheila continued, “Sam, the corporate office decided to double your contribution and fly the little girl and her family to Singapore for medical treatment”.

Sam stood there stunned, “You’re kidding me?”

“No, I am not!”

Sam remembered the note in the glass bottle up on the barren windswept hill buried under the rocks of the corner post for who knows how many years: And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Sam hurried into the house opening the door he hollered, “Robin! You are not going to believe this!”

Chapter Eleven

Sam’s phone vibrated on the desk making him jump, “Hey Sam, this is Mike can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Oh, hey Pastor Mike what’s up?” Sam got up and closed the door to his office.

“I was just checking on that parking lot paving and expansion project for the church.” Pastor Mike Johnson replied.

He, Sam and Cory had all met the previous month to come up with an affordable way to pave the existing parking lot and expansion to accommodate for new growth in the church. With growth came complaints, one of which was adequate parking. Folks just didn’t like walking through mud puddles in their Sunday clothes.

“Yup, I met with Cory yesterday to put together the proposal. I have it right here in front of me. I was just about to send it over to you.”

“Awesome Sam, what is the cost for the church?”

“Well, Pastor Mike, you really should see the breakdown of time and materials to really grasp the cost of this.”

“You’re scaring me Sam. Can’t you just tell me over the phone?”

“I sure can Mike” Sam replied “It looks like the total will be $56,800.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone.

“Hello? Mike? Are you there?”

“Yeah Sam, I am here. How are we going to pay for this Sam?”

“Well,” Sam said clearing his voice “I believe that if God is behind this whole expansion project then He will provide for it won’t He? I think you need to announce this to the congregation and tell them we need to raise the extra money. Ask them to commit over and above their tithes as an act of faith.”

“Sam, tithes are down. People are struggling to making ends meet and they definitely do not want to hear that the church needs more money. The tithes we are getting barely pay my salary and the operating costs of the church. We cannot even afford to help the missions this month, not to mention the government is threatening to take away our 501C3 nonprofit status unless I conform to their guidelines.”

“What? What are you talking about Mike?”

“Yea, I got a letter the other day laying out what I can and cannot preach about. They say if I preach about homosexuality and this transgender thing they will remove our not for profit status. If we lose that and people do not get their tax deductions we will no longer get the tithes we need to operate. I have no other choice but to comply.”

Sam couldn’t believe what he was hearing and said. “Well, I say God is bigger than that. Surely the congregation would continue to tithe whether they got a tax deduction or not.”

Pastor Mike responded “I am just not sure that is something I am willing to put to the test Sam. Maybe we can come up with another way to raise some money. One thing is certain we need the parking lot to bring in more people and that will bring in more tithes. It is simple math.“

“Well” Sam said, “I am sure God will work this thing out Mike”

“I hope so Sam, I sure hope so. Thanks for getting me the bid.

Pastor Mike hung up with a big sigh. “Well we are not going to make that kind of money doing a car wash that’s for sure.“ he said out loud.

“Katie the church secretary had been listening in to the conversation.

” Pastor Mike?” she asked from the office just outside.

“Yes Katie?”

“I didn’t mean to listen in on your conversation but your door was open and well I couldn’t help it. I was kind of thinking, maybe we could get someone to come in and put a concert together? Maybe we could sell tickets.”

“Yeah, we could do that” he said his voice trailing off. She knew that he was brushing her off by agreeing with her but what he didn’t know was that she had a connection. Her girlfriend’s sister was getting married in a month and one of the singers of Meadow Song was going to be a groomsman at the wedding. She had dated him back in the day before he had gotten all famous. Travis had contacted her for a date at the wedding but she had turned him down. The group had planned to do a surprise appearance for his bachelor party. Just maybe, she wondered, they could be persuaded to do a small parking lot fund raiser. She looked on the calendar and noticed that it coincided with a women’s conference that was being held at the church the Friday before the wedding. Her wheels started turning.

He had given her his number in the event she changed her mind and well, maybe her mind could be changed!

After the conversation Sam sat at his desk, stunned by Pastor Mikes suggestions. He had to tell Robin about this as he reached for the phone.

“That explains why the sermons have been so watered down lately. Pastor Mike doesn’t want to offend anyone or they will not get the tithes to operate the church!” Robin remarked in furry.

“Heidi was right! Seven Mile is just like all the other churches in the valley, watering down the messages to bring in the people. It all comes down to money just like everything else in the world. That’s what they called it tickling the people’s ears in the bible Sam!”

After Sam hung up Robin stewed over their conversation the rest of the afternoon. Pastors have stopped delivering sermons on the book of Revelation and end time prophecies because they didn’t want their churches labeled as a doom and gloom church. If they mentioned money heaven forbid they were money hungry. Congregations wanted to hear how much God loved and forgave them not about sin and the consequences of sin. They were completely compromising the word just as the bible said would happen in end times.

Robin called Heidi to confirm coffee on Saturday.